More Green Roofs Arriving to San Francisco

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The GSA hopes to certify 50 U.N. Plaza as Platinum under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, making it one of the first historic buildings managed by the GSA to attain LEED Platinum. “The living roof and photovoltaic array are factors that will help,” said Ruth Cox, the regional administrator for the GSA. Cox was on hand to give the first tour of the building’s roof, which also supports 4,000 square feet of solar panels.

The roof has a central green area of 9,000 square feet surrounded by a frame of red rocks and is considered a “semi-intensive” green roof with about 8 inches of growing media, said Awie Smit, manager of Bay Area operations for Habitat Gardens, a Pacific Grove company that specializes in designing and installing green-roof systems as well as traditional landscaping.

The roof won’t be accessible to the public or workers other than for maintenance. Its major public benefit is its effects on the storm water system, Smit said. A special mat that retains water is placed beneath the soil. “Green roofs absorb up to 75 percent of the first downpour,” he said. “The deeper the soil the more water it will absorb.” The water is ultimately released into the storm system, but later and more slowly

The GSA has 1.5 million square feet of green roofs, including the new U.S. Coast Guard headquarters in Washington, D.C., which has 400,000 square feet. “It is the third largest planted roof in the world,” Cox said.

The GSA roof cost an estimated $20 a foot, Smit said. That is about half the cost of a traditional roof but on the modest side for a green roof.

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